Address criminal justice system shortcomings - Kofi Abotsi
The immediate past Dean of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Law School, Mr Ernest Kofi Abotsi, has stressed the need for the judiciary to focus on tackling challenges associated with the criminal justice system in order to sustain the Justice for All programme.
He said the challenges were more structural and systemic and, therefore, the training of judges, alternative sentences, provision of legal aid services, ensuring that all suspects had representation in courts and the full application of laws on bail must be given utmost priority under the second phase of the programme to decongest the country’s prisons.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra last Monday, Mr Abotsi described the Justice for All Programme as a major intervention by the judiciary and its ancillary organisations in the administration of justice in the country.
Ten years after its implementation, Mr Abotsi said the next phase must go beyond the present mode of practice.
“Before the introduction of the Justice for All programme, some judges were basically remanding in prison custody many people who were not supposed to be remanded or there were people who spent more than the days they had been remanded because many accused persons did not have legal representation, so whenever they appeared in court there was the tendency for the abuse of judicial discretion by some judges,” he explained.
Citing the Kumasi Central Prisons as one of the overcrowded prisons, Mr Abotsi said the Justice for All programme was introduced to assist such people who among other things may have been in prison longer than they had been remanded.
The Justice for All programme was introduced in 2007 as a means to decongest the country’s prisons .
As the judiciary marked the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the programme, remand prisoners for instance are reported to have reduced from 33 per cent in 2007 to 13 per cent in 2018.
Mr Abosti, who was among a number of personalities accorded special recognition during a dinner and awards night to mark the anniversary, said the present practice of identifying some convicts or remand prisoners and dealing with their issues under the programme was more concentrated on the systems and not the problems.
He pointed out that although the programme had generally succeeded since its introduction, it must be extended in the future to include the contributions of the Police Service which also complemented the efforts of the judiciary to deliver justice and reduce the congestion in the prisons.